Peach, nectarine growers to get EU help after Russian ban

Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:06am EDT

* Commission task force analysing implications of Russian ban

* Member states to debate issue on Thursday

* Commissioner says funding is 'a signal of intent'

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The European Commission will provide financial support to EU peach and nectarine producers as a result of Russia's import ban on European food and also because of bad weather, it said on Monday.

Russia announced a one-year ban last week on imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway.

The Commission, the EU executive, has said it is too early to say whether EU farmers will be eligible for compensation from a 400 million euro emergency fund, created as part of the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

But it said on Monday it had already decided to support peach and nectarine growers by increasing from 5 percent to 10 percent the share of their production that can be withdrawn from the market and distributed for free.

The EU compensates farmers for the unsold fruit and also plans to provide extra funds for marketing. The Commission did not specify how much money would be paid out.

"I will be proposing today that the European Commission take immediate, retroactive measures aimed at reducing supply and promoting demand," European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in a statement.

Referring to the 400 million euro emergency fund, Ciolos said the support for peach and nectarine growers was "a signal of intent".

"We are monitoring markets closely, and I will not hesitate to do likewise to assist other sectors dependent on exports to Russia, should it be necessary," he said.

The Commission said the measures for the fruit producers, which still need formal approval and a decision on precisely which source of EU funding will be used, had already been under consideration because of weather damage to crops.

Their situation has become more urgent, however, following Russia's import bans.

France, Italy, Greece and Spain are the main producers of the EU peach crop of 2.4-2.5 million tonnes per year and of the nectarine crop of 1.1-1.2 million tonnes. (editing by Jane Baird)